The Colorado Springs Independent’s Jeanne Davant reported yesterday that a threatened withdrawal of support by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from drive-up COVID-19 testing programs could impact local efforts:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has ended support for community COVID-19 testing sites effective April 10, leaving in doubt the future of the drive-up test site in Colorado Springs.
Dr. Leon Kelly, El Paso County coroner, said county Public Health is trying to find supplies and personnel to help run the testing site…
“UCHealth has been at the forefront of serving our community since the first cases of COVID were diagnosed in El Paso County,” Media Relations Specialist Cary Vogrin said via email. “We are committed to continuing the operations of the testing site off South Parkside Drive with or without federal support, so long as our supplies enable us to do so.”
But late yesterday, the word went out as Politico reports that the feds would not pull back support from what’s considered a vital resource to make controversially limited COVID-19 tests available:
[A]n HHS spokesperson told POLITICO the federal government will continue to operate the sites if governors request such assistance — and said that the agency would not hold states to the deadline listed in a FEMA memo: 5 p.m. today. [Pols emphasis]
“I want to be clear that the federal government is not abandoning any of the community-based testing sites,” HHS testing czar Brett Giroir told reporters late Thursday. “Many people want the federal government to allow them to do the programs as they want — without the Public Health Service officers, without the restrictions that we have.”
Giroir said that some states have already chosen to take over testing sites. Others — including Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey and Texas — have asked for continued federal support, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday night at a White House briefing.
What happened between yesterday morning when FEMA had decided to pull out of the drive-through testing program and yesterday evening when FEMA did an about-face? We assume it involved some animated discussions from vulnerable Republicans whose states would be affected by this decision. We can speculate, but no matter who convinced them to change course at the last moment this is another example of arbitrary and capricious management of the pandemic by the Trump administration. Much like the co-opting of 500 ventilators Colorado tried to buy a week ago by competing federal buyers, there are clearly major gaps in communication between officials who are supposed to be working together.
And it’s consistent with a theme: of states like ours scrambling to mitigate federal incompetence.